SCU Marlins on top in the biggest rugby upset for decades
IT'S DIFFICULT to put into context how much of a shock was delivered by Southern Cross University's 20-19 upset of Port Macquarie yesterday at Geoff King Motors Park.
Imagine it was a horse race, and even with 15 clones of Black Caviar filling the Pirates' jumpers, the astonishing penalty count would still get them beaten by a short half head.
Port scored first from a textbook movement and many thought it would merely be a matter of 'how far.'
But two Tim Davis penalty goals in reply had Marlins trailing by a point and even with a second try to the visitors shortly before the break, the premiers were still expected to assert their authority in the second session.
Marlins found plenty when they came back out.
Simon Donald scored off a Josh Rayner run and Davis converted to put the home side into the lead.
Donald missed a penalty shot following another blast of the whistle but when Joel Riddle crashed over for a try that Davis again converted, the suspicion something extraordinary was building here began to emerge.
Instead of finding something in reserve, Pirates seemed to be flat-lining.
The whistle kept sounding.
The line-outs were awful.
The saving grace of the spectacle was Marlins' defence which got better and better as the side lifted.
Stoppages broke momentum and concentration with record numbers of Marlins' players calling a halt to fix their boots and Pirates strewn everywhere to receive medical attention.
Pirates rallied with a try to John Talamavau which was converted by ex-rugby league recruit Addam Greenway and again, the sideline eyes suspected a late rush would get the visitors home now they were just one point in arrears.
Four minutes from the end with a scrum packed in front of the SCU line, off went that whistle again.
A penalty to Pirates was expected - that they would kick in fairytale fashion - and deliver a victory that would be talked about for years to come.
Instead the referee's hand pointed in the direction of the home side and moments later, the most stunning of inexplicable results was about to enter the record books.
Marlins coach Dave Nicol missed the win due to Country selection duties.
As for captain Riddle ... he was almost stunned by what his men had achieved.
"Dave can get on the drink now," the big man laughed.
"We talked about digging in and getting up off the line in the second half.
"Port started to get on the back foot and that's when I think the game began to turn our way."
Riddle said he was always wary of Pirates fighting back to win but his team mates found something deep within.
"An awesome second half with the deep edge.
"You have to find a great defence to stop a great attacking game and in the end, it showed.
"We got them."
Meanwhile, at Coffs Coast Advocate Rugby Park, it was another upset - well, sort of - when Hastings Valley beat Coffs Rugby Snappers 18-17.
Co-coach Craig Landrigan said fitness was one reason for the defeat but losing Brad Henry five minutes into the game with a suspected broken arm also caused a hiccup.
"A few calls in the ruck area didn't suit our style and so we didn't get the ball as regularly as normal," he said.
"However the positives were bringing the new guys in with Adrian Nix getting a try against his name."
Southern Cross University Marlins d Port Macquarie Pirates 20-19
Hastings Valley Vikings d Coffs Harbour Snappers 18-17
Kempsey Cannonballs bye
SCU d Port 22-7
Coffs d Hastings 41-33
Kempsey d Bowraville Goannas 20-14
Port d SCU on forfeit
SCU d Port 32-27